Nicola Biggerstaff – 25 November 2022
Last weekend I spoke on behalf of Common Weal at the first of North East Fife Yes’ Indy Curious events at the 1B Westport Café in Cupar. We discussed the importance of appealing across the independence debate, the ability to reason and have informative discussions, as well as avoiding the vacuum of soundbites and mudslinging we’ve become so accustomed to.
Hosted by the convenor of North East Fife Yes, Councillor Stefan Hoggan-Radu of the SNP, the night was full of interesting discussion, and it was great to see so many who were already on board with Common Weal ideas in attendance, ready to spread the word. Of course, I couldn’t have finished my appearance without a significant plug for our new book, which so many were excited to hear about.
The series of events, concluding this Saturday, are aimed at introducing undecided voters to the independence debate. We also discussed community engagement, enthusiasm for campaigning, and how to gear up for a second referendum with Lesley Riddoch, who also promoted her then upcoming rallies on the day of the Supreme Court ruling on a second referendum.
However, it was the big revelation of the night from yours truly, the one which almost had me (jokingly) booed out the venue, that speaks to the larger point of the purpose of the events themselves. I was one of the estimated 46% of 16-24 year olds who voted No in 2014. Much like my approach to Brexit two years later, I simply did not have enough confidence in the plans put in front of me to deviate from the status quo.
I have became more open to the opportunities that independence has to offer in the years since, especially when we look beyond the corporate, capitalist-driven arguments influences of the mainstream political parties. It shouldn’t be about the money, how much or how little Scotland is worth to whichever global entity wants to reign over us next. It’s about our own, internal potential: how we can use our own resources, fully under our own control, in a way which benefits everyone. It’s never been about showing how staunch you are to a certain party, there’s an ideological case that’s been around a lot longer than any democratically elected government in this country.
This is the aspect of the debate which is often ignored. If you support independence, you’re an SNP-worshipping loony; if you’re pro-union, you’re a Tory gammon. That is, obviously, just not the case, a reductionist flashpoint which only serves to fuel divisiveness. There is a middle ground, but no one is willing to look hard enough because it doesn’t make a good headline. Because it becomes lost in the vacuum of poorly-stated facts with a punchy insult, a ‘funny’ GIF, centuries of context compressed into 240 characters or less. Both social and traditional media once again leave a lot to answer for in their wake, with the debate so polarised and toxic, that some people are afraid to utter the i word in public. How are we supposed to converse about such an important issue if we continue to act this way?
At Common Weal, we have always framed ourselves as social and economic equality first and foremost, but through independence, as the most efficient way to bring about the change we need. We acknowledge that, even among our own supporters, the support for independence varies in degree, from increased devolution within the union onward. We wouldn’t be doing ourselves any justice if we didn’t advocate for solutions that could benefit everyone now, in place of campaigning for independence above all else. It’s about creating a better society, not political point-scoring.
The non-partisan arguments for independence will always hold more weight in my eyes. With the motivation of morality and community over power and financial greed, I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to them than through Common Weal. We’ve done the research for a feasible path to and beyond independence. Had I known about them all those years ago I would perhaps have been more open to it, and this is why our work is so necessary. It’s not about convincing people (or brainwashing them, depending on your perspective). It’s about giving people the tools, the information, the statistics they need to come to their own conclusions. We certainly wouldn’t force anyone to support a party they don’t agree with for the sake of a single issue. It is, and always will be, much deeper than that.
I’d like to thank Stefan, Alan, and the rest of the team at North East Fife Yes for having us at their event, and to the 1B Westport Café for their hospitality (as well as their lovely coffee and cake!). Their next Indy Curious event will take place in Dairsie Memorial Hall on Saturday 26th of November, featuring Iona Fyfe, Josh Scanlon and Mags Hall. Be sure to book your place via Eventbrite here, and follow them on Twitter @YESNEFIFE for more updates.
And of course, if you’re Curious about what an independent Scotland could look like, without all the smoke and mirrors of party politics, our book Sorted: A Handbook for a Better Scotland, is still available to pre-order via our Crowdfunder.